More Interest in Pinterest …

While it pales in comparison to the $1 billion+ Facebook public offering today, social bulletin board Pinterest, the topic of a recent blog post of mine, has snagged its own financial windfall this week.  It comes in the form of a $100 million investment led by Rakuten, Inc., a Japanese conglomerate of Internet-oriented businesses.

With this filing, Pinterest is now valued at approximately $1.5 billion.

Why is Rakuten making the investment?  Very likely because one of the key components of the conglomerat is e-Commerce Marketplace, which is Japan’s leading electronic commerce player. 

Michael Jaconi, an executive officer at Rakuten, is quoted as saying that “Pinterest recognizes Rakuten as a global Internet player and they want to leverage some of the skill set in the growing business world.”

With 77 million members in Japan already, Rakuten has ambitious plans to become “the top global internet service company,” according to Mr. Jaconi.

But why choose Pinterest instead of Facebook or Twitter for such a major financial investment? 

The answer to that question isn’t necessarily “either/or,” actually.  “We want to continue investing in technology that is as innovative as Pinterest,” Jaconi notes.  “If we need to buy and invest to bring us closer to that source of innovation, we will.”

Stay tuned, obviously.

What to Make of all the Interest in Pinterest …

I love PinterestUntil now, I’ve hesitated to blog about Pinterest, the digital bulletin board and newest “breakout network” in social media.  I wanted to see how it was evolving before jumping to conclusions about its importance and staying power.

Without a doubt, Pinterest is one of the biggest stories in the social sphere right now. It seems that something as simple as enabling users to post “boards” of their collections of photos has struck a nerve.

Pinterest is one of the most user-friendly social sites in cyberspace.  Pinterest participants use a “bookmarklet” button installed in their browser to affix photos or images to virtual bulletin boards set up on particular topics or themes such as interior decorating, food arts and fashion.  Each image has an accompanying clickthrough link to the web page where it was found.  Users can also “re-pin” images they find on other Pinterest boards.

Simple, easy … and popular.  In its most recent Digital Marketing Benchmark & Trend Report, Experian reports that Pinterest is now the third most popular U.S. social networking site. Only Facebook and Twitter rank higher.

Just how well is Pinterest doing? Consider that this invitation-only site has ~10 million users and receives nearly 25 million visits in a single week. That’s 30 times larger the volume of visits recorded on Pinterest just six months ago.

I’m still trying to determine how much staying power this latest social media phenom possesses. The rapid adoption rate tells us something right off the bat … and there are a few additional reasons why Pinterest may be here to stay in a big way:

  • Pinterest is a highly effective form of digital scrap-booking that seems to be extremely popular with its users.
  • Online audience measurement firm comScore reports that users spend an average of 1.5 hours per month on Pinterest, second only to Facebook.
  • Pinterest is easy and intuitive to use, making it popular with people who aren’t your typical “geeky” computer user. Pinterest users tend to skew older … more female (~80% actually) … and generally located more in “flyover country” than in coastal zones like New York and California.

Any time a social network can claim to have attracted the hearts and minds of the broader population, that’s noteworthy … and it leads me to believe that Pinterest isn’t merely a passing fad.

Indeed, we may have just scratched the surface of what Pinterest will be and what it will offer in the years ahead.

What are your thoughts about Pinterest?  Dynamic or dull?  Flash-in-the-pan or here to stay?  And how do you see it being used by marketers to promote their products and brands?